I'm bumping this thread since I just ordered one for my office system. I'm planning on hooking up my MacBook -> DacMagic+ -> Rotel power amp -> Meadlowlark Kestrel HotRods. Will also use my Sennheiser HD600s. I'm going to get rid of my preamp.
Looking for opinions about whether to hook it up via USB or optical, and which is the best cable bang for the buck.
I have a DacMagic Plus in my headphone rig but I am a PC guy.
I've tried USB (with the Cambridge Audio USB 2.0 driver) and coax. I prefer the USB but there's not a massive difference. I am using the Audio Advisor Pangea brand USB cable. Don't have the optical option from my PC.
Going balanced out from the DacMagic to a Burson HA-160 headphone amp. I have the HD-650, not HD600, and find good synergy in this system.
@Dmgoodman, you have a nice rig.
Does the dacmagic gets very hot?
Dmgoodman, is there any noticeable difference when the HD-650 is used with the DACMagic Plus(via its headphone socket) and the Burson headphone amp? Is the difference appreciable or subtle?
Your thoughts are appreciated.
Mine only gets kind of warm after many hours of playing, but never hot enough that I'd be concerned about needing a fan or putting it on top of something else.
I'll answer the questions asked - sorry, hadn't been back since I originally posted.
I've been burning in a new pair of headphones and have left the DacMagic Plus on for 24 hours straight. It was slightly warm but not hot.
The headphone out on the DacMagic Plus was better than I expected. It drove both the HD650 and AKG K702 quite well. However, its no match for the Burson. Stronger bass and better dynamics with the Burson.
@Dmgoodman - well, the Burson is an $800 stand-alone headphone amp, so I'm not really surprised. I got my Dacmagic Plus delivered yesterday. However, I'm still waiting for my Pangea USB cable and a replacement cable for my Sennheisers (my 7 year old somehow damaged the old one). In the meantime, I hooked it up briefly to with the cheapo USB cable that came with the DM+ into my Rotel amp. It sounded pretty good, but not that smooth. However, I'll reserve judgment until it's broken in and I'm using a proper cable.
Thanks for the information Dmgoodman. Much appreciated. It appears that headphone outs on most DACs don't really have much in them in comparison to good dedicated headphone amps such as the Burson.
Update - After a week with the DM+, I am sending it back today. I'm not even sure if I let it burn in long enough, but I just got the sense that I wasn't going to be 100% happy with it. I thought it was a bit bright at the top and I noticed too much sibilance (sp?) for my liking. Perhaps this would go away with further use, and perhaps it's my system, but I just ordered a Wadia 121, so we'll soon find out!
[By the way, it was hooked up in the following arrangement:
MacBook running Audirvana -> Pangea Pure Silver USB Cable -> Dacmagic+ -> Kimber Kable Hero XLR cables -> Rotel RB-991 power amp -> Hovland Ninelines speaker cables -> Meadowlark Kestrel Hotrods] Also tried it with my Sennheiser HD-600s plugged directly into the headphone jack.
Maybe I'm expecting too much, but I didn't think it sounded noticeably better than my tiny portable Dacport plugged into a preamp with a mini-RCA adapter.
Not surprized. Try the V-dac. More organic sound in my system.
Ssglx - I already ordered the Wadia 121.
FWIW, are you sure you want to eliminate the preamp? Below 80% of full volume, most digital volume controls will shed bits in order to attenuate the signal level, which might explain some of the problems you heard. I know nothing about Audirvana, so perhaps it deals with this issue, but otherwise, you should have at a least a passive, non-digital volume attenuator for volume control. Also, do you have any power-line filtering in use? Dirty a/c (like a/c polluted by computers on the same circuit) can contribute to some of the treble nastiness you described.
I tried it through my pre-amp and didn't think it sounded any better. There seems to be a split of opinion about digital preamps. Some people think they are bad for the reasons you state, and many others think that taking a separate preamp out of the chain improves the sound. I think it probably depends a lot on the digital attenuation technology that is used. My understanding is that the Wadia 121 has excellent preamp technology (don't ask me to explain it). Anyway, it's coming tomorrow, so I'll see how it sounds.
Your comment about the power line is probably true, since my office is in a really old building. However, when I had my Oppo CD player in the office in the same system, it sounded great.